Pre-Incident Planning

Pre-Incident Planning

Tuesday, 05 September 2023 12:43

A pre-incident plan is a very important and often overlooked tool in a fire department’s toolbox. Having a working knowledge of how to deal with anything that the world throws at an emergency response crew can mean life or death for those involved. Sloppy planning often leads to sloppy execution, and this is why it is important to have a standard established for pre-incident planning. 

There are many levels of pre-incident planning across the spectrum of the firefighting sectors. Municipal departments in large cities will focus more on individual factories, businesses, and developments within their local fire district. Rural departments and government land management stations will focus more on the larger wildland areas, urban-interface areas, or developments in rural areas. 

Pre-incident planning can focus on both sides of the operation, either pre-attack plans to be used by fire departments to suppress a fire or fire mitigation plans to assist landowners on how to lower the overall risks to their property in case a fire approaches. 

This article discusses pre-incident planning that can be done by fire fighting agencies primarily in a rural or urban-interface situation. This can be utilized by all stakeholders to prepare in the event of wildland fire within their area of operation.

Fire Department Pre-Incident Planning

Pre-incident planning should be an ongoing practice within all fire department agencies, however, because of the many challenges and increasing workloads faced by firefighters, it can be overlooked. 

We understand the importance of pre-incident planning and can assist when the time comes to begin the process.

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) defines a Pre-Incident Plan as “a document developed by gathering general and detailed data that is used by responding personnel in effectively managing emergencies for the protection of occupants, responding personnel, property, and the environment.” (NFPA 1620- 2010 Ed)

Pre-incident planning with the local fire department facilitates the transfer of critical information to first responders that can guide their response to a fire incident and improve their response capabilities, which may ultimately save lives and reduce property damage and business interruption.

NFPA 1620- Standard for Pre-Incident Planning, provides formal guidance for creating a comprehensive Pre-Incident Plan. Some of the aspects of developing pre-incident plans in rural areas or developments in the wildland-urban interface are discussed.

Pre-Incident Planning in the Wildland-Urban Interface

The wildland–urban interface is a zone of transition between wilderness and land developed by human activity – an area where a built environment meets or intermingles with a natural environment. Human settlements in the WUI are at a greater risk of catastrophic wildfires.

As the population grows in this country and more people move away from the cities and into more rural landscapes, the wildland-urban interface continues to grow, and pre-incident planning is imperative to fully protect human lives, structures, and the natural environment.

One very important document in the pre-incident planning for fire departments in the wildland-urban interface is the Community Wildfire Protection Plan (CWPP). This planning document incorporates information from all the stakeholders within a geographic study area, including fire departments, state, and federal fire services, local housing developments, private landowners, and municipalities. 

The CWPP has two major sides to it: first, a pre-attack planning section and second, a fire hazard mitigation section that is a collaborative effort of all the stakeholders involved in the area. The CWPP can be for an individual housing development or for an entire fire department response area, depending on the needs.

Development of a Community Wildfire Protection Pre-Incident Plan

A community wildfire protection plan (CWPP) is a means of bringing local solutions to wildland fire management. In developing and implementing CWPPs, communities assume a leadership role in reducing wildfire risk on federal and nonfederal land.

A CWPP can help you and your jurisdiction plan and prioritize implementing project work that can make a difference in protecting homes, residents, and responding firefighters. Some of the key components of a CWPP include:

  1. Collaborating with, identifying, and including comments from all stakeholders in the community. The most effective CWPPs include input from all groups in a community because this generates buy-in to project implementation. Everyone has a part to play.
  2. Research community risk using maps. Landfire Data may be able to help you depending on your location (detailing fire history, topography, and assets at risk). Identify the condition of infrastructure and local vegetation, as well as response capabilities.
  3. Identify key components of risk in local home and infrastructure construction, such as roofs, eaves, decks, and vents. Define ways to improve these elements of design and construction to reduce the risk of ignition. Identify removal of landscaping elements such as dead/dry vegetation close to homes, overhanging limbs, and dried leaves/pine needles that can accumulate on the roof under decks, to create defensible space.
  4. Identify the condition of the natural environment surrounding the community. Work with state and local foresters, land managers, fire service, emergency managers, and planners to identify opportunities to use prescribed fire or other means to mitigate wildfire risk and improve forest health.
  5. Create an action plan that identifies short-term and long-range goals depending on the capabilities of the community and the prioritization of risk identified.

Some Basic Components of a Pre-Incident Plan in the Wildland-Urban Interface

The pre-incident plan is a document that can be utilized by firefighters to suppress a wildfire in the future or by landowners to lower fire risk through active mitigation procedures to protect property in the event of a future wildfire. 

There are many layers of information that can be included within a plan, depending on local objectives and needs, but here are a few of the most important and common components of a pre-incident plan.

  • Area description and list of major stakeholders
  • Vegetation types and associated fire behavior
  • Housing development descriptions and hazard ratings
  • Fire hazard mitigation plans
  • Incident Infrastructure descriptions including.
    • Incident command posts
    • Equipment staging areas
    • Water points
    • Safety zones
    • Evacuation areas
    • Helispots
    • Established fire breaks
  • Maps of a geographic area including
    • Topographic maps
    • Vegetation fire behavior maps
    • Aerial photographs
    • Incident Infrastructure location maps
    • Housing development maps
    • Pre-attack plan maps
    • Evacuation plan maps

Pre-incident planning is an ongoing process that should be done by fire agencies on a regular basis within their area of concern. Whether you are planning at the individual factory level within your department or across a large rural landscape, it is imperative that you take the time to develop pre-incident plans that can be utilized when needed.

StreetWise® Provides Software to Assist with Pre-Incident Planning

StreetWise is a public safety information services company located in Terrell, North Carolina. StreetWise is an elite group of progressive, like-minded investors, managers, technical developers, and advisors that form the parent company, Hangar 14 Solutions, LLC.

It is our close and ongoing career experience with public safety that led to the development of this project concept. Hangar 14 Solutions has identified first-hand the gap in getting critical response information into the hands of emergency personnel.

StreetWise can assist you with developing pre-incident plans for businesses and other structural facilities. If you would like more information on the services offered by StreetWise, check out our website and please reach out to us with questions or for a free live demo!